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High Bridge Trail State Park

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High Bridge Trail State Park

Coordinates: 37.3105, -78.3135


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High Bridge Trail State Park in Southside Virginia is a rail trail converted from a railway line last belonging to Norfolk Southern and having originated as a portion of the Southside Railroad.

The first section of the trail opened in 2008 and the final section was completed in 2012. With a length of more than thirty miles, the shared-use trail for bicyclists, pedestrians and equestrians includes a restored crossing of the Appomattox River at the historic High Bridge from which the park derives its name.

The lineal park traverses Appomattox, Nottoway, Cumberland, and Prince Edward counties as well as Pamplin City, Prospect, Farmville, Rice and Burkeville. Where the trail traverses Farmville, it directly adjoins Longwood University at the campus' satellite housing and athletic site.

Background

High Bridge had been built in 1854 across the Appomattox River connecting Petersburg to Lynchburg. The bridge is 2,400 feet long and ranges from 60 to 125 feet (18 to 38 m) high. It was originally made of wood, standing on 21 brick piers and included a pedestrian walkway next to the tracks and a nearby wagon bridge. During the American Civil War, both Union and Confederate forces attempted to destroy the bridge to their advantage. Confederates succeeded in setting the bridge on fire, but the fire apparently self-extinguished, and the bridge was not repaired until 5 months later. After the Battle of High Bridge and his surrender at Appomattox, Robert E. Lee told the very men who had destroyed the bridge including civil engineer Major General William Mahone to go home and start its rebuilding.

Park history

Norfolk Southern's last train crossed High Bridge on October, 26th 2004 and in December 2006 the company donated 31 miles (50 km) of abandoned rail to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, managers of the Virginia State Park system. Intended as a park with the High Bridge as its centerpiece, the shared-use path for non-motorized traffic pedestrians, bicyclists, and horseback riders would preserve and protect trail resources while creating an education resource for local and national history.

With a total budget of an estimated $11 million, four miles of trail east of Farmville opened on Aug. 22, 2008 and 12 more miles from Farmville west to Prospect opened on June 6, 2009. On April 6, 2012, after completion of the final segment of the trail, the restoration of the High Bridge itself, the trail opened for the first time for its full length 147 years after the Battle of High Bridge.

Park details

Having been privately owned and operated by Norfolk Southern and offering only very limited access, the park area now offers more than thirty miles of white limestone gravel trail open to the public. Retaining the 6% grade of the original rail line, the corridor features picnic, parking and toilet facilities as well as large oak trees, telegraph poles erected in the 1900's, remnants of the original rail's signal system and Norfolk Southern's original cement mile markers as official trail markers. Park rangers and local police monitor the trail daily.

The trail receives community support from the Friends of High Bridge Trail (FoHBTSP). Formed shortly after the creation of the trail, the volunteer group supports the trail with cleaning, publicity and citizen patrol efforts.
There are 12 picnic areas.

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